The magic doesn’t go away

Some time during the course of most people’s lives, they reach a point when they’re no longer anticipating getting older (a.k.a. “growing up”), and begin to… well, maybe “deny” is too strong a word, but they dodge the question of how long they’ve been around. And then, during a casual conversation they’ll let something slip — something like “Oh, I remember that…”

The common phrase to name that moment is “showing your age.”

Linden Lab appears, to this observer at least, to have an ambiguous relationship with the age of the virtual world they invented. Each year they create a bunch of temporary regions and invite the users to populate them with constructions, all in an effort to celebrate what they call the birthday of Second Life — that is, the anniversary of when it declared itself “out of beta”: 23 June 2003. Each year, they put on a show of how proud they are of how old Second Life is… which is to say, how long it has managed to survive in the marketplace of virtual worlds and MMOs.

And yet (with very few exceptions), there is no public retrospection, no look back, no acknowledgment of the Beta Oldbies whose accounts are older than the putative “birthday” being celebrated, and who still, after 8 or 9 years, maintain an active participation in the world. It is as if the Lab wants to brag about their age without “showing their age.”

From my point of view, this makes little sense. Why not enhance the sense of accomplishment — well-earned, I might add — with a look at how far we’ve come? Why not review the milestones of both technological and cultural achievement? Why not give special mention to the pioneers who started us on the path?

Unfortunately, I can come up with some possible answers to those questions, and the most likely one is: too few people care. There is a truism that goes around the community of bloggers about Second Life: (at least) 90% of the Residents are unconcerned about anything more than the immediacy of the world they log into. They don’t care how it works, or how it’s run, or how things used to be in the past, so long as they can find their friends, their clubs, their fashions, and their poseballs. “History” to them is what (or who) they did last week.

And I think part of that lies in their conception of the word “virtual”, which they take to mean “not real”. The realization has not struck them that Second Life continues to exist, grow, and most of all change during their absence from it. They log in, and it runs on their computers just like any other program; they log out, and it goes away.

And so… because “SL (fill-in-the-blank) B” is ostensibly an event by and for the Residents, and too few Resis care about the history — and the very few of us who do care are either too busy, or too wary of the pitfalls inherent in exhibiting — no one comes forth to remind the rest of just how remarkable Second Life’s continuity is. Meanwhile, the Lab appears not to care enough, either, to take the matter into their own hands.

Perhaps, when the previous administration of Linden Lab — specifically Kingdon and Hale —  insisted “Second Life has no culture”, they meant the Lab has no corporate culture. In other words, it’s just a job: go to work, earn your paycheck, log out at the end of the day, and it all goes away. Considering the fact that there are no Lindens (except Philip, who barely counts) remaining from the early years, and that most of the workspaces seem to have been equipped with revolving doors, it shouldn’t be expected that anyone there has any more sense of the world’s continuity than all but a handful of Residents.


It should also come as no surprise that those very few of us history geeks who do pay attention to continuity have gone outside of the “SL_B” grist mill to collectively display objects of interest we’ve collected.  The brainchild of Salazar Jack and friends, ArcheoExpo 2011 opened yesterday (25 June) at the Seaside Village in Cowell (SLurl). Icarus Fallen has blogged about the opening – you can find that here.

According to Salazar, the Expo will be open for two weeks (not one, as the website states), after which (with their owners’ consent) the artifacts will be moved to a permanent location in the Grignano region of Nova Albion.


Finally… if you do have an inkling to learn about the early years of Second Life, I’ve gathered a modest list of Resources at the bottom of this page.

One very important resource is missing from that list (owing to my procrastination in updating the page): Pituca FairChang’s blog, “Memoirs of an Oldbie”.

If only others were recording their personal memories of those times…

Though I’ve painted with the broadest of brushes, I can and should vouch for one Linden who does have a proper sense of SL’s history: Torley. And — in addition to their project in western Bay City — the Linden Department of Public Works, a.k.a. the Moles, quietly replaced the Rizal region two days ago with a combination of historical restoration and new work, which I intend to visit soon, and blog about next week.


14 responses to “The magic doesn’t go away

  1. Very true. I am as guilty of this as others and without your comprehensive research I would be none the wiser.
    SL8B doesn't seem to be any different to SL5B, and thats a shame… it's just another lagfest with stupid rules where some creators get upset and others rebuild old stuff from previous years… it needs a dramatic rethink…but, as we know, that will not happen.

  2. What they need is someone who takes SL seriously. Someone who understands what is there; the potential, the groundbreaking, the history of the medium (and in this I include 3D gaming, without which we wouldn't have nearly the look we do now).

    Not sure how many Lindens, if any besides Philip, even know about the early VWs; how the modding community worked with open 3D engines to generate huge and lasting content (people still play UT because of the 1000s of mods and user-created levels) and the history of graphic representations of virtual spaces.

    It might give the employees a sense of vested interest in being on the leading edge of a new medium rather than a day-to-day grind.

  3. =^..^= Well… it's certainly no secret to those that know anything about me concerning my age.
    For those readers of this blog that dont know… my rl birthday is early 1942. When I say life is short… all under some indeterminate age will say, “I know”. You don't know.

    History of any kind has always been a fascination of mine… Secondlife as well. I suspect that perhaps the average age of SL users would contribute to 'history' for them being the immediacy of today, or last week, or their rezz date of a couple years ago.

    Prowling around some of your early sites Lalo is how I found the Fairchang sim. An inspection of the owners led to reading Pitucas profile and the section about the passing of her husband Garth. That led to sending her an IM (or note, cant remember now) and since then her treasured but infrequent posts on her blog.
    Pituca seems to be the last of the true Oldbies that regularly still come inworld and continues to provide not only precious pictures, but the dialog that makes those images come alive.

    I was surprised to find out just how she and Garth ended up with the same last name… one contructed of two other names.
    Curious? Google Pituca Fairchang!

    @Miso @soror Sadly I feel that the vast majority of the upper echelon Linden employees are much too busy chasing the dollar/new user to appreciate exactly what this time and place truley is.
    What's that song line, “you don't know what you miss 'till it's gone?”

  4. Hi Lalo, hope you are well.

    I always do love hearing brinda or other older SL residents talk about how it was back then. It bothered me and still bothers me how SL just feels like a place people dump crap or have this mindset that “it's just a game” or “it's just work.” I have met many older residents and I am warmed by their spirit and what they bring to my SL experience. If not for them, I'd be one of the newbies who logs in a few times and then never comes back or comes in and out from time to time.

    BTW, my rez day is next Monday! Haha, just felt like sharing.


  5. This reminds me, for some reason, of a conversation we had yesterday, Lalo. Wonder why. ;-)

    Also: “Considering the fact that there are no Lindens (except Philip, who barely counts) remaining from the early years” Andrew Linden may beg to differ. Probably Guy, Lexie, and Michael too, but they're not quite as old as Philip and Andrew.

    SL4B had a historical bent, with each region having a specific “era” in mind. It was nice. While I don't think something quite as ambitious would be done now — I'd sure love to see at least some attempt to show us where we've been. Heck, at the least, I'd love to see a display of the items actually *in* those locked time capsules.

  6. @Marianne: Freely admitted: our conversation yesterday was one of the sparks that ignited this blog. Thank you for the inspiration you so often hand to me in the course of “enabling” our mutual obsession, ;)

    If Andrew and the others would beg to differ, let them do so here… and then demonstrate to their co-workers the importance of acknowledging continuity — which I use in the sense of story- and script-writing as much as I do the broader sense of cultural history.

    @Lennoire/Vic: Happy rezday! (which one?)

    @Brinda: There are a few others I know of: Cubey Terra, Ingrid Ingersoll, Cristiano Midnight, Chip Midnight, Lordfly Digeridoo, Huns Valen… just to name the ones I can remember from posts at SLUniverse. As I said above, I only wish they were more active about reminiscing in a way that other researchers might be able to find, as Pituca has been.

    @Miso: Ironic, isn't it, that the one Linden most likely to get all that, and maybe even do something about it, is the best-known noob in SL, the new CEO?

    @soror: I toyed for about ten minutes with the idea of getting a parcel at SL8B to do something educational about SL History… but “just another lagfest with stupid rules where some creators get upset and others rebuild old stuff from previous years” is what told me NO with a resounding inner voice.

    Besides, I couldn't think of a way to make it fit with this year's high school prom committee's theme…

    (…though I did manage to fit it into my title here, freely borrowed from Larry Niven)

  7. I'm still puzzling over the rules as given out for the exhibitors, in particular: limit sculpts, no megaprims, and again, the baffling G-only designation. So much of SL fits into PG, let alone the Adult arenas, it just seems inconceivable to cut that out, year after year.

    I wasn't impressed with this year's celebration, frankly. It needed help, and part of that help needed to come from the Lindens. And it just didn't. The only thing that really did, I think, come close to the theme? Kerupa Flow's exhibit on Chernobyl and the Japanese tsunami devastation. It was inspiring, lyrical, gorgeous and–yes–quite magical.

  8. I wrote this before I read yours, but I believe the two go hand-in-hand and address the overall problem with SL these days –

    If there's no sense of culture, and no sense of continuity, then there can be no sense of permanence; e.g., that this is just another dimension of existence and as real as the rest.

    Things turned when they brought in Mark Kingdon, a Wall Street hack whose modus operandi is to make things lean, mean, and…marketable. That's when the sense of family ended between Linden Lab and its customer base. They were turning toward an idea of selling SL to some other company, and instead of turning to their very customers to find out why they were bleeding sims and bodies (and money), they decided to rely on a bean counter who had no sense of what SL was all about. I use the word “was”, because I'm not so sure it's embodying the same values it started out with.

    Hiring Rod Humble is a great idea, but it may be too late to turn things around – that is, if they keep on the same course they're on, now. They're still not listening.


  9. Eep, I shoulda clarified, Lalo. My bad. Andrew and the others, well, I don't know what their take would be… but each are from “the early years.” Particularly Andrew Linden.

  10. There are a lot of early residents that are still very active in SL and creating new products and promoting them very well.. quite a few more Lindens than are mentioned here are still around as well.. You just gotta know where to look. I don't know that asking them to talk is such a good idea though because they do tend to go on… LOL

  11. Lalo, you can call me Vic. I have a few other blogs with blogger, so I had my name for this account show up as Lenoirre. In SL and Inw, I'm Victoria Lenoirre.

  12. Pingback: Getting Historical at SL9B | Telling: Like it Is

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