Fair(e) Gratitude

My friend Isabelle made her own Ted talk about being a Blogger & Vlogger a while back which made me think about the direction of my own blog and how I seem to have drifted off course.

She talked about how some bloggers get paid and others don’t and no-one (except those getting paid) know who is. There seems to be some kind of culture here that isn’t very palatable. Big brands want bloggers to have high numbers of followers (1 Thousand Flickr followers seems to be a standard requirement on applications, despite it not actually being a blogging platform) before they’ll accept you as an official Blogger. This makes sense from their point of view, they want maximum exposure. The way these follower stats work in reality though, it certainly doesn’t mean that many people will see it. It’s a false measurement to base a decision on.

But this post isn’t about money,it’s about appreciation, or sometimes lack of it. The first and only time (so far) I have been accepted as an official blogger was for Fantasy Faire last year and I was very appreciative of the opportunity.

It would appear given how hard it is to be accepted by shopping events or stores, that we are expected to be just as appreciative, all the time. To work, because that’s what it is, for free to help them sell stuff. I have tried applying to stores and events, but now I’ve stopped to wonder why. This blog isn’t one of the huge number of shallow fashion blogs around, I’m just telling the story of some parts of my SecondLife experience.

What I have experienced at Fantasy Faire was different in the best way. I had several “Thank you” messages directly from creators for featuring their work, particularly smaller designers.

Those two words make all the difference when you’re doing something for just the joy of it. They’re not expected, but are nice to hear occasionally.

Perhaps people are more gracious at the Faire because it is a charity event, with a buzzing happy vibe of enthusiasm of a community come together to raise money for a good cause.

Fantasy Faire this year will take place between 21st April and 8th May 2022. I’ll be putting my blogger application as soon as they open, obviously!

Outfit Credits:

So that was 2021..

So what can I say? Did lots happen? In the real world..well yes and no,depending where in the world you are,but let’s not go there because this blog is about SL. In SecondLife quite a lot certainly did happen.

I thought the easiest way to remind myself was looking through my snapshots and use them to tell the tale, so I’ve used the images from blog posts I made in each month. Occasionally I’ve found portrait or other shots that didn’t make it onto the blog and have included those too.

Click the month names to read the related posts.

January

12th Janauary Portrait

February

My current profile pictuure

March

Engine Room event inspired outfit

April

I dressed as Pross from Blade Runner for SL Book Club

May

June

American Cancer Society Relay Event

July

A cool SciFi outfit I put together for SecondLife Bookclub

August

Lexicutioner. A look inspired by character in a book from the SecondLife BookClub. See post of same name for details.

September

I revamped my Mars Cyberpunk RP character

October

My SecondLife Halloween photo contest entry

November

December

On Patch “Santa” Lindens lap for a photo with the Lindens

As you can see I had quite a busy year in SL during 2021, this small selection of imags really doesn’t do it justice. The highlight point was definitely being an official blogger for Fantasy Faire picking just a few for April was tricky!

Thankyou to all of you that have taken the time and interest to read my ramblings this year, it means a lot to me. I wish you all a happy and safe 2022.

Ava

Does Meta Matter?

So Facebook got renamed, or rather the parent company did. Does it matter? There’s been lots of spoof responses in social media about it, from puns on the name to the logo or just the whole concept.

It’s been widely reputed that this is part of his (Evil?) Masterplan to create a “Metaverse” for everyone to connect, work and socialise.

Umm.. HELLO Mr Z…This Already Exists…

When someone says Metaverse to me, I immediately think of SecondLife, Sansar and similar virtual worlds. But to me the term goes beyond those and is very wide ranging, probably encompassing pretty much any digital virtual world or environment.

Zuckerberg wants a piece of it, but whatever he ends up creating or calling it, to me it will just be *part* of the wider Metaverse. Its a concept not a thing you can buy or own, but no doubt he’s trying. It’s not possible to join up all the virtual worlds and spaces out there, a lot of them are technologically walled gardens. Even if it were possible would users want it? You may trust one company (or several) with your Virtual identity (in my case Linden Lab for my SecondLife) but linking all the games, virtual worlds and platforms you might have accounts on through a system run by Mark Zuckerberg? Unlikely. But then there a lot of privacy-careless or privacy-ignorant people out there that just might. Or if it’s the only way they can use their VR headset that he subsidised.

So does it matter? To some it will, others won’t care. I fall into the latter group, but because I don’t care for the privacy invasive business model of FaceBook/Meta doesn’t mean I should ignore it. If the Metaverse as I describe it above was a lake and the various virtual worlds were fish swimming along minding their own business, I’d compare Meta as a shark. It has large financial teeth and has a history of consuming potential competitors(e.g. Oculus among many others).

This analogy may not be as far off the truth as I thought. Since I typed out the above I came across an article published yesterday (30th October 2021) which mentions a 2018 report sent to Facebook board members that says:

“Let’s not build the Metaverse with the plan to help other Platforms accumulate and retain consumers[…] Let’s build the Metaverse to keep them from being in the VR business in a meaningful way at all.”

Sounds very shark-like behaviour to me. Meta will matter, but not I think in the way Zuckerberg wants it to.

Something I would recommend reading is a peice in response to Zuckerbergs announcement entitled “Facebook Meta Isn’t New. The Future Started in 2003” written by a long-time SL resident by the name of Phaylen Fairchild. Which I think any SL Resident would agree with.

Halloween 2021: Different perspectives but all fun!

Halloween is a special time of year, for different reasons for different people. For some it is a deeply religious time when rituals are performed formally or informally to honour the dead and rememer lost loved ones. You can find legimate Wiccan/Pagan organisations in SecondLife that perform these ceremonies.  The opposite extreme is the very Westernised version of the holiday that is a retail exercise featuring lots of black,orange and kids dresing up to get sweets.

Wherever you feel you fit on that range doesn’t really matter in SL. You can go to the rituals, the parties, the shopping, it doesn’t really matter so log as you’re enjoying yourself.

The common theme through it all is the costumes! Whether you go for playful cute witch, some kind of monster or in my case dark creepy vampire, it’s all such fun!

There’s not much in terms of skin coverage in this outfit, but that’s kind of the idea for a vampire on the hunt. Too much clothing would just get in the way and soak up any spillage that could be drunk! The cloak is definitely a requirement though, it lets me wrap up and disappear into the shadows quickly away from witnesses!

Photo Location: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Pine%20Valley%20Resort/249/28/26

Credits:

Avatars, Brands and Personas

 

My avatars online persona started with an email address.

This way I could separate SL related, avatar specific, mail from other day to day RL stuff. These days such things can be acquired in just a few minutes for free.

Then I thought it would be fun to tell people about my adventures in SL, so I bought a website domain for a blog, although I didn’t start using it for quite some time. When I actually started using that, a Twitter account to promote it followed  as well as a Flickr account for photos I took inworld.

I was gradually unintentionally building my avatar into a full online persona or psudonym, to the point they have more of an online presence than my RL identity.

But when does a persona become a “brand”? Is it based on the number of people that know of you? Number of “followers” or customer sales if you have an actual product.

To make things more confusing I discovered this term “brand-persona”, where a company creates a persona for their brand, without the actual person part. A fictional figurehead that doesn’t have a person behind it, but a marketing team. Sure we’re aware of these things, but I wasn’t aware there was an actual term for it.

An article I found on this suggested that individuals, while having or being an actual brand, don’t consider themselves as such. Whereas with business it’s completely the opposite,but that’s not surprising.

This lead me to think about these people known as “Social influencers”. Just the term makes me cringe, because it makes me think of “Reality TV” show participants that suddenly achieve “celebrity” by doing not a lot, certainly not anything worth being celebrated. But maybe that’s a misconception.

So what’s a social influencer?

The website Influence Markering Hub describes it as:  “People who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. They make regular posts about that topic on their preferred social media channels and generate large followings of enthusiastic, engaged people who pay close attention to their views”.
They go so far as suggesting influcer types from “Mega”  down to “Nano”, based on their follower numbers.

However based on the definition above, I have friends in SL that are probaly influencers, but they don’t consider themselves as such. They’re not the ones that make me cringe, it’s those that identify themselves as such.

Maybe if we follow the suggested numbers, persona becomes brand when you reach a certain “type” of influencer, at X amount of followers. Since the definition of these characters changes frequently, presumably the answer to my query does too.

I really struggled with this idea though, it seemed very  wrong to base value of something or some achievement based on mere statisitcs. To help me try and figure some of this out I asked Draxtor Despres. Undoubtedly an avatar and he certainly influences people, however I’d never want to insult him by calling him a brand.

The questions do overlap but I couldn’t decide which one might get to the point of what I was trying to work out.

Q. At what point does and avatar persona become a brand?

Draxtor: A simple answer to that is if you are on an entrepreneurial path, if you have something to sell. Which is totally fine. The wonder of second life is that you can do a mum and pop type shop or create something and have complete power over how to market to sell it and that’s a wonderful way to do commerce. So I would say an avatar persona becomes a brand when there’s commerce involved.

Q. Is whether an avatar becomes a brand related to the number of followers they may have on social media platforms?

Draxtor: Follows has absolutely nothing to do with anything, the idea of followers to measure the importance of what you do in terms of success in a measurable binary sense is total bullshit. That’s the capitalist paradigm. The capitalist paradigm is trying to equate number of sales to the importance and to the validity and to the greatness of a product and that’s just total bullshit.

Q. Do you think using an avatar name outside Second Life as name of blog or social channel make it a brand?

Draxtor:  I would totally do that just for consistency. If you talked to somebody who studied marketing in college would probably say I’m talking about branding, probably I am but I just don’t like the word because the word to me is clouded and soiled frankly by the nefarious agenda to sell bullshit to people for monetary gain of a small elite.

So it would appear Draxtors thoughts on the subject, matched pretty well to my own. His assertion that quite a lot of it was bullshit resonates with my thoughts that it felt so wrong to place value or worth on something or someone based on popularity or how many people know or approve of them.

On the subject of influencers however he had this to say:

I do Linden Lab contracting work where I produce weekly videos highlighting destinations, creations and creative individuals in personal profile style videos. In that sense you could see me as influencer, since I am on the payroll of Linden Lab AND showcasing the best of the platform. I don’t have a problem with that classification (influencer)however I would like to add that with my specific contract I have tremendous freedom to choose topics and the way I visually present them.
It is maybe a bit like working for the local tourism agency of country XYZ where you LOVE all the stuff the locals do and you tell stories how they do it!

That now looks like a contradiction, since I said people that identify themselves as influencers make me cringe. The difference being here is that Drax hypes imagination and creativity in the virtual world, not things for sale.

But is it that simple? Throw in money and you go from a persona to a brand? I thought maybe I need some more input, a contrary view.
I asked someone that I thought fitted this description, that receives money via sponsored ads on their social media content. I asked if they felt they considered themselves a brand and if so, at what point they thought an avatar becomes a brand.

“I think our social media foot print is kind of like a brand. Any time you are blogging or vlogging you are branding your self, your image, etc”.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a reply to a follow up question for any clarification but thier response does match up with the finance argument Drax makes. Their money comes in through their social media postigs, because they charge for ad space, which therfore makes them a brand just by posting.

So maybe it is that simple after all.

Edit:
Coincedentally just hours after I posted this article Isabelle Cheren posted a spoof video called “That Cringe Social Influencer” which depicts very well the type of person I talk about above, give it a watch.

I’d love to hear any thoughts readers may have on this, so do please put your thoughts in the comments. (While you’re there, read the comment by Drax where he clarifies some points.)


This post was featured on the Second Life Community Blogon 7th April 2021.

Thoughts on Emotional connections, Real and Virtual lives.

A few things recently have set me thinking about the nature of virtual vs physical realities.

The first of those came out in my post about Virtual Hugs, which seemed to be very positively received. In that piece I talked about the importance of emotional attachment to your avatar.

I’m not debating whether virtual spaces, activities or experiences are “Real”. We interact within them, do things and have experiences within them. So from that perspective, the fact the “place” is computer generated is irrelevant, its Real. They’re just a slightly different kind of real, but you can’t deny the interactions happened.

Shortly after my blog post about hugs, a thread started on Twitter by Loki Eliot (@Demonkid) about how virtual experiences may have affected the physical reality, set me thinking more.

He posed the question of how much of our virtual lives (whichever space that may be in) pervades into our physical lives to shape our perception of it. I would say that it may well be quite a lot. Or possibly more accurately it could be proportionate to the amount of time you spent on these spaces. I’ll start by sharing my responses:

“Belief whether something is real is exactly that, belief, which is something you feel. If something happens in a virtual setting it’s no different to your mind than a physical world [..]”

“Perhaps those that mocked you may see their error now they can’t go out, but you can still do all your regular recreational things. Re-creation being the perfect word. It’s all recreation of a type of Real but better and how we want it. “

Emotional connection to your avatar and feeling part of the virtual environment are sometimes known as embodiment and immersion respectively. Whichever terms you use these things are important to get the most out of these worlds, to feel connected.

Some people can spend years in Second Life and not develop this connection. I have a friend that was in SL for years, until it finally happened. I said something like “Welcome to the Real Second Life” playing on the line from The Matrix. Others including myself form the connection quickly, it’s different for everyone.

Some people that don’t understand the idea of places or environments like SecondLife say things like:

“Just log off and forget about it”

It doesn’t work like that though. The thing that bridges the Physical and Virtual worlds is yourself. Your mind that experiences both places, you can’t switch your thoughts off. If you have an argument with someone online, particularly if they’re a friend, if they say something nasty it hurts you emotionally. It hurts in exactly the same way as if a friend in the physical world did the same.

So you would probably log out, but those feelings are still there and the exchange could rattle around inside your head for quite a long time. Note I said “online” above, because these things aren’t limited to 3D worlds, people are always getting into arguments on social media too. It can also happen in the Physical world, something that upset you at work for example. This is something the “just log off” brigade don’t realise, it’s the same emotional triggers as when they have a squabble on social media,it can hurt.

Does that mean Virtual Worlds are “Social Networks”? Perhaps in a way, we socialise and we network with our friends and make more friends. That’s where the similarity ends I think. In SL there is much less tolerance for disruptive behaviour I believe. We (Second Life residents) have a simple all-encompassing term we apply to it, “drama”. If you start any, you’re likely to be removed (ejected) from the place/group fairly promptly.

Perhaps where the virtual overlaps into the physical, is how we deal with people. We may have fewer physical interactions right now, but for those that inhabit virtual spaces, life continues as it did before or maybe even more frequently.

We may even go as far to say that interactions in Virtual Worlds are more like the Physical world than things on social media. People have jobs they go to, places they socialise at and favourite stores they like to shop in.

Imagine you ran into an old friend unexpectedly while you were out, that friendship may be refreshed, you’ll have a catch-up chat and may arrange to meet again. That kind of thing doesn’t happen on social media, because they’re flat, 2D, boring.

It’s  exactly what happened to me recently, as opposed to the hypothetical situations mentioned earlier. I went to a club to hang out with a friend and by pure chance there were a number of people there I hadn’t seen for over a year, many years in one case.

So those overlapping emotions can be positive as well as negative. I’m now looking forward to a catch-up chat, a shopping trip and another event I was invited to,  with the various different people I met.

All from the comfort of my home in the physical world.

Featured on the Second Life Community Blog on 24th March 2021.

What’s in an Avatar name?

 

What does a name mean? In short, more than I thought.

I last posted about moving my blog to a new domain name to match my new SL username. So that kinda did happen and kinda didn’t.

I won’t bore you with the details, but after plenty of hair pulling I ended up with a duplicate site on the new address. I started to change other little things, my Displayed name on Twitter and Flickr for example. Then it came to my SL Display Name, and I couldn’t do it.

I don’t mean a technical issue, it just didn’t feel right. I’ve used the Ava Delaney name in SL for 8 years come the end of this month, it’s part of who I am now.

It was dropped from my Username last year because I thought “AvaDelaney Bloodrose” would have sounded a bit odd. I really wanted rid of the “Resident” last name though, so thank you Linden Lab for making that possible.

While I was inspired by a book character, my version of Ava has grown far beyond that now. I’ve made the name my own and it feels part of my avatar persona. A rather stress-inducing but fortunately not excessively costly exercise to discover this revelation, but I think worth it.

So I’m sticking with the Delaney name and this blog is staying right where it is.

How much value do you put in your Avatars name? I’d be interested to hear.

Don’t Undervalue a Virtual Hug

I woke up the other morning and really wanted a hug, in these current times such things are no longer to be taken for granted.

So we do “virtual hugs”..in the Real world (*rolls eyes*). This is not what I’m referring to here though. Not the extending our arms and waving them about in an impersonation of a hug at someone stood 2 metres away. Some people may get some comfort from this gesture but for me, it just looks ridiculous and doesn’t really trigger the emotional response we need, so I don’t do it.

I’m also not talking about emoji and gifs (although the latter are usually more heartfelt) expressing the same sentiments.

What I’m referring to is something like this:

Pic by Strawberry Linden.

This photo was taken in Secondlife because that’s my playground. You could achieve the same thing in other virtual environments. (But SL’s the best!)

The key though is emotional attachment, if you form an emotional attachment to your avatar, what happens to your avatar triggers an emotional response for you. In this case the sensation of closeness to another human being, even if what your eyes are seeing is pixel people. In your head it’s a virtual “you”, the other person wants to share this moment with you and that is the point. This doesn’t work for some people I know that, they just see pixels on a screen and it triggers nothing, to me they’re missing out.

So come Valentines Day, (or any day you feel you need one) if you can’t be near someone for a Physical hug, come into SL and get a proper Virtual Hug.

I didn’t capture the hug I got that day, but it inspired me to write this, the picture above was taken at Second Life Book Club.

Outfit Credit

This post was featured on the SecondLife Community Blog on Tuesday 16th February 2021.

%d bloggers like this: