Friday, October 16, 2009

Plus Ça Change…

During the last week my real life has asserted its ugly self, and I haven't been able to spend much (OK, essentially any) time Second Life. Although I hadn't planned it, taking a little time off has given me a few moments to think what Second Life is to me—and what it cannot be.

In a crow's nest, trying to decide
whether this ship has sailed.

As a few people have surmised, lately I've been having something of an Second Life identity crisis. I have always been cognizant (and still fully believe) that SL exists only in relation to real life; nonetheless, part of what appealed to me about SL was that I could participate and not disclose details of my identity. Without this possibility, I couldn't be in Second Life at all, but, even so, Second Life started off as just a cautious distraction and I was ready to bail at the first sign of weirdness.

However, the initial ease of keeping my real life out of Second Life eventually led me to consider SL somewhere I could just be, well, me, at least a little bit. I know it sounds weird, but I found this appealing because Just Being Lou isn't something I get to do much. Eventually this morphed from being interesting to me to being important to me…and it doesn't take a genius to see how my approach to Second Life then became fundamentally hypocritical and untenable.

Even still, as has been documented in this blog, I soldiered on: I got more deeply involved in the handful of SL communities that welcomed me, and I have even taken on paying work in Second Life. There have been a couple of hiccups, for the most part that's all gone fairly smoothly.

But it's also dug me a deeper hole. Investing greater amounts of time and energy in Second Life means taking SL more seriously, and there's only so much seriousness Second Life can tolerate without interfacing significantly with real life. For instance, I can't go to any parcels—or continents—that require age or payment verification. This is already a significant issue (aside from not being able to go to one of my favorite trivia games!) and seems like it will become a greater one going forward as Linden Labs tries to move virtual worlds into the mainstream. Sure, I could lie and use fake credentials to get around these issues…but apparently that's not something I'm willing to do.

I also can't convert Linden dollars to real money, so doing paid work in Second Life is rather pointless: I might as well be working for free. Rampant content theft is another concern, albeit mostly indirect since I don't sell content. However, unless something changes radically, it does mean the work I've been doing will dry up anyway. I can't see how there's any future in trying to earn money from creating content in Second Life.

But probably more significantly, a lot of Second Life is built around enabling people do become something (or several somethings) they are not, or become something which they are proscribed from being real life. I fall into that latter category; unfortunately, the thing I am proscribed from being is pretty much the one thing I cannot be in SL. I could be a turtle, a dude, a bird, a blowing ball of light, an exotic flower, a smoke-spewing ozone-destroying mecha traipsing through puny avatars. But I can't be me.

So, the short version: I'm not leaving SL, but I'll be stepping back a bit.

I'll keep doing my Lou's Clues trivia game as long as I can or as long as people are still interested, whichever comes first. I will also complete projects for existing paying clients—or transition them to other folks who can complete the work—so no one is left in a lurch. However, I will not be accepting any significant new paying work in-world. I will also be scaling back the amount of time I spend in SL, since that pesky real life needs attention and I can't continue to justify the real-world costs (time and financial) of significant involvement in Second Life.

An odd upshot of this is that I might actually be more visible to my friends in Second Life once I "scale back" than I was before, since I'll be spending less time locked in obscure locations staring into the (horrible) LSL script editor or combing through server and database logs.

And that's all to the good. Fundamentally, the people are the most important thing in SL. Even if I don't personally fit.


  1. I'm sad that you seem to be enjoying SL less, Lou. I have read and reread your blog, especially this part... "led me to consider SL somewhere I could just be, well, me, at least a little bit. I know it sounds weird, but I found this appealing because Just Being Lou isn't something I get to do much," and I still fail to understand. Are you in a witness protection program? :) If not, I guess it is just very difficult for me to imagine myself feeling this way. I just skip (or trample) through life being me night and day wherever I am. Sometimes people like me and sometimes they don't, but I find it impossible to be anyone BUT me. Confusidly yours, Karmel Kips

  2. Lou, I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I can't help but notice what you don't mention here: griefing. Most of my interactions with you over the last month have centered on griefing inflicted on you and grief abatement. I don't know the full extent, but I do have a sense how it has impacted you, and the measures you've gone to to protect your trivia game and shield your friends.

    I said it before but it bears repeating: what you've been experiencing is not typical. I know you won't run away from it, but please don't be disheartened by it either.

    Your clients will be losing one of the best. I hope the rest of Second Life doesn't lose you too.

  3. It seems as though part of your current quandry centers around the limitations imposed on you by not being age-verified. Aside from that, you seem to mostly enjoy your time in-world, and we certainly enjoy having you here with us.

    Being a clever, resourceful, and rational person, I'm sure you have very good reasons for your reluctance to provide the minimal info necessary to age verify. Having been a victim of data/identity theft in the past, I myself wrestled with this necessity for some time and only acquiesced at the last possible moment. Having gotten past that point, I have so far found that what I get from SL is fair return for any real or perceived risks I have taken to be here.

    Still, scarcely a week goes by that I don't also wrestle with the idea that perhaps SL is not the place for me. I have many days where I also feel that I should just throw in the towel and move on. But (so far) I haven't.

    All I can say is: Less Lou would be a loss, but No Lou would be a damned shame.

  4. Hey—realize I'm late to the party on this.

    Karm: not in witness protection, but my RL isn't open for discussion. I know what I said sounds weird and contradictory. Doesn't mean it's not true.

    Geoff: The horse is dead; shut up about the griefing. :) You hear about it more because I feel comfortable asking you all sorts of technical questions. I'll stop.

    Becki: Not being able to hook up payment info is more of a hindrance than age verification. If I were age-verified I could go to Zoo Bar trivia, and that would be great. However, some content creators are trying to curb piracy by restricting access only to accounts with payment info. When those content creators are your clients, not being able to access your "work location" is a bit of a problem.

  5. I'd hate another Missfortune to remember. But I also recognize that it's not my choice.

  6. For folks outside the SL trivia scene, "Missfortune" above refers to Missfortune Looming, an absolutely top-notch trivia player who left SL at the end of 2008. Chadd caught a picture of her at Zoo's old mountain spot.

    Dear anonymous: nothing to fear. I am not, never have been, and never will be anywhere near the same league as Miss. :)

  7. I have been swamped IRL lately too and hadn't kept up with your blog...but be assured should you ever disappear from SL I will hunt you down and noogie you oh alien overlord. (That is my funny way of saying I'd seriously miss you should you ever leave)


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